There’s a big myth about the modern age which is that we all have to work much harder than we ever did before. We hear about the frantic pace of the modern workplace, etc. etc. Frankly it’s a load of hooey — as any description of the working conditions of ordinary people more than seventy or so years ago will tell you. I still have the letters my grandmother wrote home to my great-grandmother in England, when she was out in Canada during the First World War. My grandparents were farming out on the Alberta plains on land recently opened up by the Canadian Pacific Railway. With four small children in a wood cabin in the middle of the prairie, she just worked solidly from the time she got up in the morning (about 4 or 5) till the time she went to bed at night (about 11 or 12) seven days a week with no holidays. And my grandfather did the same, out on the prairie in all weathers.
So where did this myth come from that we are all overworked these days as a result of the pace of modern life? Well, it’s certainly true that many of us spend our time rushing around constantly busy. But rush and busyness don’t necessarily equal productive work (or play).
One of the very real differences between life today and life in olden times is that we have far more choice. My grandparents had very little choice about how they spent their days. Everything they did was necessary if they were going to survive — there were no distractions like computer games or tv or the internet. They couldn’t just even get in a car and go off to the cinema. No car, no cinema. Life for them, and for most working people, was like the fixed menu in a restaurant. If you were lucky you might get one or two choices but for the most part you ate what you were given and got on with it.
These days life for most of us is like being presented with an enormous restaurant menu with hundreds of choices. Most of them sound mouthwatering and making up our minds is really difficult.
In a real restaurant when we are presented with a huge menu like this we know that, however much we dither, we have got to make up our minds what we are going to have. Usually we will choose a starter, a main course and a dessert.
However when we are presented with the menu of life, instead of selecting a starter, a main course and dessert from all the hundreds of choices, we behave as if we had to eat the whole menu!
So it’s not surprising that we end up rushed off our feet. We commit ourselves to so many things that there is no possibility that we can do all of them. Unlike my grandparents, who had to work incredibly long and hard hours, our rushing around is a self-inflicted injury.
The next time you find yourself complaining how busy you are, think about the restaurant menu and ask yourself how many courses you are trying to cram into your current meal. Are you trying to have five starters, ten main courses and six desserts? No wonder you are having difficulty cramming it all in!
So make a start on cutting your commitments back to a make a meal that you stand some chance of being able to digest. And remember — when you have finished one meal, you can always come back and have another!